Madame X is Madonna's 14th studio album that was released on June 14, 2019 by Interscope Records.
- Medellín (with Maluma)
- Dark Ballet
- God Control
- Future (with Quavo)
- Killers Who Are Partying
- Crave (with Swae Lee)
- Come Alive
- Faz Gostoso (featuring Anitta)
- Bitch I'm Loca
- I Don't Search I Find
- I Rise
In January 2018, Madonna announced on Instagram that she had begun working on her 14th studio album.
Four months later, in May 2018, she performed at the Met Gala in New York. As part of her performance of her hit single "Like a Prayer", Madonna sang a brand new song "Dark Ballet" (then known as "Beautiful Game").
In October 2018, she was featured on the song "Champagne Rosé" by rapper Quavo, who in return became her collaborator on this album.
Madonna relocated to Lisbon, Portugal in 2017, seeking a top football academy for boys for her son David, who wanted to become a professional soccer player; however, she later found her life becoming relatively dull, so she decided to meet artists, painters and musicians.
One of the first musicians Madonna met in Lisbon was a man named Dino D'Santiago, who she said introduced her to a great many more musicians in the area, including the Batukadeiras, a collective of drummers who she collaborated with on the track "Batuka" on this album
Believing "music is the soul of the universe", Madonna felt connected to her new influences, so she then decided to record an album based on her musical experience in the Portuguese city, which she believed to be "a melting pot of culture musically, from Angola to Guinea-Bissau to Spain to Brazil to France to Cape Verde."
During the period while the album was being worked on in Portugal, where she lives, Madonna posted short video clips and images chronicling her work on the album.
French producer Mirwais Ahmadzaï, who has previously co-produced three of Madonna's albums, Music", "American Life" and Confessions on a Dance Floor" was confirmed to be one of the key producers for the album.
Mike Dean (who co-produced "Rebel Heart") was also enlisted in the album's production.
In February 2019, Maluma uploaded a picture on his Instagram account with Madonna in a studio
In her interview with Vogue Italia, Madonna divulged that her album was due for release in 2019. On April 14, 2019, she posted a series of teaser clips on her Instagram account, revealing Madame X as the album title.
According to AllMusic and The Daily Telegraph, "Madame X" consists of three main sounds: Latin music, trap music, and art pop. It is Madonna's most linguistically diverse album, sung in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
When dissecting the purpose of this album, she explained that it's a love letter to multiculturalism, saying: "Art belongs to everyone. It's not a question of appropriating what other people do and taking it as your own. For me, it's an homage to all the music that I've listened to - and giving a platform and a voice to all of this incredible music that the rest of the world doesn't really have the privilege to hear."
The album opens with "Medellín", a Latin pop duet with Colombian reggaeton singer Maluma that depicts the pair longing for a trip to the song's titular Colombian city while reflecting on their past struggles.
Madonna revealed after Madame X was released that she decided to collaborate with Maluma after she realized that he loves horses, as she does.
The following track, "Dark Ballet", is an experimental pop song featuring heavy use of Daft Punk-like vocoder and orchestral music, structured similarly to that of "Bohemian Rhapsody". Additionally, the song features a sample of "The Nutcracker Suite: Dance of the Reed-Flutes" by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
In an interview, Madonna revealed that the concept behind the song was influenced by one of her favourite films, "A Clockwork Orange." She also revealed in the album’s press release announcement that it was based on Joan of Arc's life.
In Madonna's own words, "Joan of Arc fought the English and she won, still the French were not happy. Still they judged her. They said she was a man, they said she was a lesbian, they said she was a witch, and, in the end, they burned her at the stake, and she feared nothing. I admire that."
"God Control” is an experimental disco song that blends together a gospel choir, gunshots and vocodored vocals.
While describing the inspiration behind the song, Madonna stated that she wanted to incorporate elements of disco music from the late 70's, as it reminded her of when she first moved to New York City and would frequently hang out at Studio 54 - a place where she felt liberated, as opposed to most nightclub attendees currently.
The song talks about standing up against authoritarianism and America's feeble gun-control laws.
Madonna further recounted the song's theme as how “Nowhere is safe any more – places where we used to go to dance and escape and have fun… or pray, or go to school… No public gathering is safe. I was thinking about Studio 54, because I caught the end that wave – I moved to New York in 1979 that was the last year that Studio 54 was sort of in existence before [co-founders] Ian [Schrager] and Steve [Rubel] got arrested. And so, just the idea that those kinds of places, that used to bring people together, are no longer safe, is a really scary thought to me. And sad. People feel like gods when they have guns in their hands.”
The fourth track, "Future", is a dancehall song featuring American rapper Quavo. Lyrically, it discusses how one's viewpoint regarding the poor and underprivileged affects us on the long run.
"Batuka" is heavily inspired by the music of Cape Verde, specifically Batuque. It features background vocals by The Batukadeiras Orchestra, a collective of all-female drummers and its narrative is about commencing a revolution in an effort to defeat oppression.
The sixth track, "Killers Who Are Partying", is heavily inspired by fado and it features a Portuguese guitar accompanied by a minimal beat.
According to Madonna, this was the first track she wrote for the record. While elaborating its topic, Madonna specified that it's about her carrying the burden of all marginalized people.
She further elucidated that "we have all these powerful men positioned in places all around the world who are celebrating and abusing their power while minorities are suffering, being degraded.
The civil rights that we fought for the LGBTQ community, women's rights, everything started to go backwards and I felt that it was really important to reflect my rage, my sense of betrayal." Madonna also sings a few verses in Portuguese.
"Crave", is a midtempo pop and trap ballad featuring acoustic guitar, hand-clap beat, and guest vocals by American rapper and singer Swae Lee
Madonna stated in an interview backstage at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards that it was one of the first songs she wrote for the album and that she wanted to sing with a man on the track.
On working with Swae Lee, Madonna said: "He's really talented...I think he's a great writer, a great singer and he's so cute. Cute's important." It paints the pair singing about an unreciprocated lover.
The eight track, "Crazy", is a soul-inflected track featuring a portuguese accordion. Lyrically, it portrays Madonna as a woman madly in love who refuses to get consumed by her feelings. This is the second song on the record to feature verses sung in Portuguese.
"Come Alive" pays homage to the music of North Africa, specifically that of the Gnawa tribe. In the track, Madonna further unfolded that "there's an interesting story [about] the shackles that the slaves wore so they couldn't escape. Once they were free, they turned what enslaved them into music - and they made those krakebs. I wanted to bring that instrument back into the story."
The tenth track, "Extreme Occident", features elements of morna and Indian music. Madonna is once more heard singing a few lines in Portuguese. Its subject matter centres around her travels around the world searching for her own identity.
"Faz Gostoso", is a cover version of the Brazilian-born Portuguese singer Blaya's signature hit. It features guest vocals by Brazilian singer Anitta and it remains faithful to the original version's funk style.
Madonna felt it was pivotal to pay tribute to her Brazilian fans by singing in Brazilian Portuguese. According to her, it felt very different than Portugal's Portuguese, so she had to relearn the language. Lyrically, it's about engaging in an extramarital affair.
The twelfth track, "Bitch I'm Loca", is a reggaeton song, and the second duet on the record with Maluma. Its lyricism explicitly details a one-night-stand, and it features Madonna singing most of her verses in Spanish. She revealed she had to undertake Spanish lessons prior to recording the track.
"I Don't Search I Find", is a house-inflected track that heavily draws influence from Madonna's own work with Shep Pettibone, namely "Vogue." The song discusses Madonna at last attaining what she'd been looking for all along in life.
The fourteenth track, "Looking for Mercy", displays one of Madonna's most autobiographical and confessional lyrics. Contrarily to the previous song on the track list, she admits to feeling isolated, whilst pleading for empathy.
"I Rise" is described as a "powerful and uplifting anthem." deconstructs surviving and rising up from the adversities from the modern world
The song contains a spoken intro taken from the speech of social activist and advocate for gun control Emma González, survivor from the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and co-founder of committee Never Again MSD during an interview in February 2018.
The bonus disc of the deluxe 2CD release and the box set edition of the album feature 3 additional songs: "Funana", "Back That Up to the Beat" and "Ciao Bella".
In "Funana", an electropop track, Madonna’s vocals have been heavily autotuned. She sings about idealizing a scenario of union and freedom while name-dropping several musical icons, such as Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, Whitney Houston, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, George Michael, David Bowie, Tupac Shakur, Freddie Mercury and Prince. In addition to these, she mentions Swedish DJ and former collaborator Avicii and Mac Miller.
"Back That Up to the Beat", an Alternative R&B track with elements of Indian music, is a reworked version of a leaked demo from Madonna's previous album "Rebel Heart."
"Ciao Bella", a dance-pop track, features uncredited vocals from Bissau-Guinean musician Kimi Djabate. Lyrically, it exhibits an introspective Madonna reflecting about life and its grueling circumstances.
In a one-minute teaser uploaded to Madonna's official Instagram and YouTube accounts, she declares herself as "Madame X", an alter-ego her album is named after (which is also the title of a 1908 play written by Alexandre Bisson).
The video opens with Madonna singing, "The thing that hurt the most was that I wasn't lost...I wasn't lost..."
She then elaborates that Madame X features different personas and characters, saying: "Madame X is a secret agent. Traveling around the world. Changing identities. Fighting for freedom. Bringing light to dark places. She is a dancer. A professor. A head of state. A housekeeper. An equestrian. A prisoner. A student. A mother. A child. A teacher. A nun. A singer. A saint. A whore. A spy in the house of love. I am Madame X."
Madonna claims that she was given the name of the album at the age of 19 by her then dance teacher Martha Graham. According to Madonna, Graham said: "I'm going to give you a new name: Madame X. Every day, you come to school and I don't recognize you. Every day, you change your identity. You're a mystery to me."
The album artwork features a close-up of the Madame X persona, with the title etched across her ruby red lips to give the illusion of her mouth being sewn shut.
Mike Wass from Idolator called it an "already-iconic artwork" and compared the imagery to that of Frida Kahlo. It is used in most digital and physical formats of the album, except the digital deluxe and box set, both of which feature another photograph of blonde Madonna.
"Madame X" debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200 with 95,000 album-equivalent units, of which 90,000 were pure album sales.
It is Madonna's ninth US number-one album. She also topped the Billboard Artist 100 chart for the first time since its launch in 2014.
Due to lack of streaming points, the album fell to #77 on the next week's Billboard 200 despite becoming the ninth best-selling album of the week.
"Madame X" dropped out of Billboard 200 on its third week, but still remained within the top thirty of the Top Album Sales.
"Madame X" received a weighted score of 70 out of 100 from review aggregate website Metacritic (indicating "generally favorable reviews") based on 21 reviews by music critics.
The more positive reviews of the album generally praised its unique and experimental nature.
Kitty Empire of The Guardian hailed it as being a "splendidly bizarre return to form" for Madonna, describing the production as "fluid... but one tempered by Madonna's solid confidence in her own aesthetic decisions."
Similarly, Nick Smith of musicOMH praised the album, calling it "bold, bizarre, brazen and beguiling."
However, mixed reviews of "Madame X" criticized its production aspects, as well as the nature of the singer's artistic direction.
Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph summarized Madame X as being "a mad mishmash of an album" and criticized its lack of cohesiveness, stating that Madonna was "fighting on too many fronts at the same time."
Similarly, Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone described the album as being "admirably bizarre", remarking that its "strongest songs" were buried beneath "disasters".
In a more critical review, Rich Juzwiak from Pitchfork denounced the album as being "muddled and convoluted", calling it "lyrically inarticulate."